Thursday, April 24, 2008

Another Way to Cycle (with Stillman Plans)

Here's the scoop. During a five-month bout of stall-gains (a term a fellow low-carber shared with me, which means we not only stall but the scale tends to easily bounce up), I knew I had to be patient and stick with my low-carb lifestyle, no matter what.

As far as I could ascertain, my lengthy battle was due to the winter season. I'm quite serious, since there is no other explanation. To add insult to injury, my chronic inflammatory conditions seemed to be the real culprits. The result: Water retention, with a vengeance. I won't go into all the details, but I researched, tried every trick in the low-carb books, and even had to resort to Lasix, a loop diuretic. Since I didn't want to continue on any form of medication, due to side effects and drops in my potassium levels, I looked for additional natural methods to combat water retention and found the lemon water miracle.

By April 14, I had been busy with a writing project, which kept me in front of the computer (and on my duff) over 12 hours a day for two weeks. Although I stayed on plan, the weight was catching up with me - again. So on April 15, I took what I perceive as a drastic measure. I decided to try the Stillman's 14 Day Shape Up Program.

Within 9 days, I had dropped 15 lbs.!

I've been asked how I exactly did it. First, although I didn't plan it this way, I ended up experimenting by kicking off with the basic Stillman's plan, which means unlimited lean proteins, no added fats, and no veggies - nada, zilch, zip.

The reason I did that was to find out if it was true that 'practically zero' carbs plus no added fats means faster weight loss.

Yep, it's true.

The first day, I dropped a lb. The next day, I dropped 5.4 lbs. overnight. Talk about a Whooshie!

Now here's an interesting tidbit: The minute I noticed the loss slowed down on any given morning, that's the day I switched to Stillman's 14 Day Shape Up program. For me, that meant adding one small, plain salad to lunch and dinner. Doing that resulted in a better scale loss the next day, upon which I immediately resumed the basic Stillman's woe.

When the weight loss slowed again, I did exactly the same thing: One day of the 14 Day Shape Up program, then returning to basic Stillman's the very next day.

A few Divine Tips to follow a similar cycle with great success:
-Pull back on caffeine. Although I had completely broken the habit last spring, once winter hit full force, I started drinking hot black tea again. So it was back to weaning myself off caffeine, limiting myself to one 12 oz. cup in the morning.

-Take at least the basic vitamins and supplements, as outlined in my blog entry, "Do You Know What Your Supplements Are?"

-Use very small amounts of virgin olive oil in a spritzer for home-made "Pam" spray; it's a much healther course to use minimal amounts of real fats than no fats.

-Drink up! Drink green tea, hot or cold, or green tea with fresh lemon (good for the liver and kidneys) and, if desired, use stevia as a sweetener. I recently found Arizona Diet Green Tea with Ginseng (which uses Splenda and not aspartame), so I drank that occasionally but mainly focused on plain, cold water. (That is because I completely avoid aspartame, and try my best to also avoid Splenda. Why? It's chlorinated sugar, which means bleached sugar - done to remove carbs - but what is it adding to our bodies? Avoid diet sodas like the plague!) Keeping the body absolutely permeated with clear liquids is an absolute must while on an all-protein cycle.

-Keep the meals basic and simple. Whenever possible, eat small but frequent meals. By small, I mean a few eggs in the morning, 4-6 oz. of some favorite lean protein a few hours later, another lean protein snack 2-3 hours after that, etc. Doing so helps the metabolism adjust, keeps hunger at bay, keeps glucose levels steady, and keeps the mind focused on your goal --- and that's where the real battle of the bulge takes place!

-If feeling a bit shaky or light-headed, immediately eat a small green salad with an unlimited amount of lean protein and your favorite dressing (preferably low carb, high fat). If that is not possible, eat a few slices of real cheese (not processed cheese food) and plenty of water.

-Alternate every other day between whole (preferably organic) brown eggs and Eggbeaters (or egg whites from the organic brown eggs).

-On the days you incorporate a 1 cup green salad, consider using 1 tbsp. of a full-fat salad dressing, not a low-fat version (since low-fat dressings include higher carbs). If you prefer the low-fat version, keep it to "just enough" - don't drizzle the salad!

-Enjoy a 4 oz. sugar-free gelatin cup either between meals or right after them. (Limit: 3 per day)

-Take it easy with the exercise. Stillman's recommended only two 15 minute light exercise routines, morning and a casual stroll, stretching, that sort of thing. This is not the time to jog, walk miles at high speed, etc. It is a good time to enjoy an easy bicycle ride, do 15 minutes of Callanetics, or other slow, easier exercises.

My plan is to finish the 14 days of alternating between the two Stillman programs, then cycling to the Protein Power Life Plan for two weeks, then back to the two Stillman woe's for another two weeks.

If this works, I'll be at my dream goal before I know it!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Do You Know What Your Supplements Are?

I have a very helpful book by Fran McCullough entitled Living Low Carb that features a plan on 'how-to-lose-10-lbs-fast." It goes like this:

--First of all, pull out all the stops with all the supplements: liver cleansing (which can include milk thistle), L-Carnitine (acetyl L-Carnitine is the best but it's more expensive), and Omega 3's.

--Drink even more water than usual - a gallon a day would not be too much. Just sip water all day - don't guzzle or you could become seriously ill.

--Exercise more than usual. (However, I've found that I lose inches but not lbs., and that's ok, too. That does for your body what defragging does for your hard drive!)

--Eat enough protein to lose wt. but not enough to maintain. (Divine Tip: Use the formula from the book, Protein Power Life Plan by the Drs. Eades. If that amount does not work, drop the daily protein grams by 20-30).

--Cut out or drastically reduce all dairy products - no milk, creamers or cheese.

--Keep fruit to an absolute minimum of low-carb fruits only (strawberries are best, and one can have up to 1/2 cup every other day). But it's even better to cut out all fruits.

--Consume no alcohol.

--For carbs, keep the emphasis on dark green vegetables and greens (dark, leafy lettuces, green beans, asparagus, and broccoli are best choices; avoid peas because they are too starchy) Divine Tip: Also, don't overdo it even with these foods...keep the quantities to about 1.5 cups, twice a day (lunch and dinner). To them, add a small amount of real fat. Did you know that we must have fat with veggies, otherwise we don't absorb their nutrients as well?

--Check that daily calories are between 1200-1500, depending on your height, frame, and gender.

--"Don't follow this regimen for more than 2 weeks at a time; you don't want to send your body into starvation mode, which will slow down your metabolism and leave you with a permanent limited calorie budget." This comment was made without backup documentation, but I'm including it here as 'food for thought.' :) I, for one, do believe Starvation Mode is a reality.

Of course, now we know there are various ways to avoid of Starvation Mode - by cycling low-carb plans and/or carefully implementing occasional free meals.

A Few Neat Tips:

Dr. Atkins recommended 2 tbsps. fresh lemon juice in warm water, a diluted form of lemon water, before breakfast or any other meal - as a liver detox! End a meal with probiotics (the good flora and fauna for the intestinal tract). Both of these ideas should help with digestive problems we low-carbers often experience. (Please see my blog entry, "Lemon Water: The Good It Does Your Body.")

For other health benefits and along with other supplements, Dr. Schwarzbein strongly recommends both a Vitamin B Complex as well as Vitamin D3, a hormone that helps with fat burning, helps insulin resistance, and improves the GI tract.

A List of Possible Supplements: Read Carefully!

The following are informational excerpts in regard to vitamins and other supplements and which were recommended by Dr. Atkins and/or Dr. Mary Dan Eades, both whom I will quote below. Interestingly enough, both doctors insisted that low-carbers should take nutritional supplements, since we cut out grain products and fruit that provided absolutely needed nutrients. I’ll also include info and paraphrases from the Living Low Carb book by Fran McCullough, who refers to these two doctors and provides a basic summary on some of their research:

---Chromium Picolinate. Best dosage is 300-600 mcg per day. Chromium Picolinate is an “intermediary between the B vitamins pantothenic acid and the important coenzyme A” and it "will build muscle (an anabolic effect), decrease body fat, plus lower the cholesterol levels.” (Dr. Atkins)

---Pantetheine. Dr. A recommended 100-400 mcg per day. “It plays a pivotal role in many metabolic pathways and is a remarkable cholesterol-control nutrient.” Note: Liquid forms are best, since vitamin supplements that claim to contain pantetheine were found, on essay, to contain none. (Dr. Atkins)

---Selenium. (200 mcg per day). It is “valuable as an antioxidant and its deficiency seems to provide an increased cancer risk. In addition, a recent animal study by McNeill suggested that it plays a beneficial nutritional role in diabetes prevention.” (Dr. Atkins)

---Biotin. No recommended dosage found in the Atkins book. However, Dr. A said it was discovered by J.C. Coggeshall and his associates that biotin caused a “significant drop in diabetic blood-sugar levels.” (Dr. Atkins)

---Vitamin C (especially in the form of Esther-C). Recommended dosage: 500 mg or more. Helps boost wt. loss, not to mention “shoring up our resistance to infections.” (Dr. Atkins)

---Magnesium. The standard dose is 300 mg - 600 mg of chelated magnesium (malate, citrate, or aspartate) before bed. Diabetics especially are deficient in this mineral.

Magnesium “strengthens the heart, normalizes blood sugar, helps with mood disorders (like anxiety and depression), acts as a natural laxative and is a natural sleep aid." Note: Calcium is often found combined with magnesium, since magnesium blocks calcium's negative affects but keeps its good ones. That's because calcium alone can deposit itself into our arteries and block them, as well as do other damaging things - but ONLY when left alone! So try to find a chelated mix of magnesium and calcium of at least 300 mg. magnesium per capsule. (Fran McCullough)

---Vitamin E. Must be taken with soluble fat to work effectively (like Omega 3 or Omega 3-6-9 or from a natural food source, like eggs or fish). Standard dose is 400 mg (in a tocotrienol mix, not just alpha-tocopherol). Vitamin E helps prevent heart disease and is a potent free-radical attacker, clot buster, and anti-aging help. We also won't see the wrinkles advance so easily when using Vitamin E! More importantly, Vitamin E increases insulin sensitivity (which means that the more sensitive our cells are to insulin, the less insulin we need to produce – and that’s the reason for low-carbing!). (Fran McCullough)

--- Folate (a B vitamin), also known as Folic Acid. Standard dose is 400 mcg a day - but if one has high levels of homoysteine, thought to be a major player in heart disease, ask your doctor about taking a higher amt. Low carbers can easily reach a deficiency in this vitamin since it’s mostly found in foods we avoid (like bananas and beans). (Fran McCullough)

---Acetyl L-Carnitine. For special conditions, the dosage ranges between 1000 and 2000 mg per day. “Carnitine is involved in fat transport and, when it is deficient, overweight people have difficulty getting into ketosis/lipolysis.” Primary use is in heart disease, "where it corrects a certain type of cardiomyopathy, helps stabilize heart rhythm, lower triglyceride levels, and increase HDL cholesterol.” (Dr. Atkins)

---Coenzyme Q 10 (C0-Q10). (Used in a study, the recommended amt. was 100 mg daily for research purposes.) It is “essential to proper working of the immune system and is a specific nutritional correction for periodontal (gum) disease. But overweight readers might be interested in a Belgian study, headed by Dr. Luc Van Gall, which showed that over half of a group of obese patients had deficiency levels of CoQ10 and compared them with a similar group without deficiency. After nine weeks, the formerly deficient group lost 29.7 lbs. on a standard diet, compared to the non-deficient ones who lost 12.7 lbs. on the same diet. If this work mirrors the incidence of CoQ10 deficiency in all overweight subjects, then one out of two of you will benefit considerably from this single nutrient.” (Dr. Atkins)

---The Essential Fatty Acids (Omega 3 and Omega 6, as well as other research that includes Omega 9). For general purposes, Dr. A recommended 2 capsules of borage oil, 2 of super–EPA, and 2 of flaxseed oil. Personal Note from yours truly: There is a delicate balance in using the Omega supplements, so I myself use the KAL brand of Omega 3-6-9.) Omega 3’s provide the essential oil called alpha-linolenic acid, while Omega 6, a special "subdivision called gamma linolenic acid is found useful for atopic eczema, PMS, cholesterol elevation, and many other deficiency situations and contained in EPA, borage oil, and black currant oil.” (Dr. Atkins)

From Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution:

The following were recommendations from Dr. Atkins (who was firstly a cardiologist, btw, which is what led him to researching the benefits of low-carbing) for “specific answers to common dieters’ problems.”

For what I called, due to modesty, 'clogged pipes': You may use magnesium oxide, extra Vitamin C, or a variety of vegetable laxatives and bulking agents. Dr. A's choice was psyllium husks. Start with 1 tablespoon in one full glass of water and increase or decrease the dose until the optimal bowel movement is obtained.

For super cravings: L-Glutamine, 500-1000 mg before meals and perhaps right at the point when craving is greatest. Extra chromium [picolinate] is valuable here, too.

For hunger not assuaged by being in ketosis: L-phenylalanine or acetyl L-tyrosine, 500 mg of the former, or 300 mg of the latter, before meals.

For fluid retention: Pyidoxal 5 phosphate, 50-100 mg, PLUS L-taurine, 1500-3000 mg daily. Asparagus tablets work very well, too. (My own observation: So do Parsley Tablets!)

For fatigue: Octacosanol, 5-10 mg., PABA, 600-2000 mg., dimethylglycine, 3-6 sublingual (under the tongue) tablets per day; sublingual B12 tablets, 1-3 daily, or 1-3 B complex tablets daily (50 mg. strength per tablet)

For nervousness: Inositol, 500-2000 mg daily, and herbal teas such as chamomile, valerian, and passion flower.

For insomnia: The above taken at night, plus melatonin 3-6 mg. before bed (ties your sleep cycle into day/night cycle; counterproductive for night workers). Calcium, magnesium, niacinamide, pantothenic acid, and 5 HTP (hydroxyl tryptophan) may all be useful here as well.

For hypoglycemics: Dr. Atkins used his Basic Formula, plus chromium, L-glatamine, zinc, selenium, magnesium, all of the B complex, PAK, extra biotin, L-alanine.

PAK is the acronym for Pyridoxine alpha-ketoglutarate, which seems to have a favorable effect on diabetes. Recommended dosage is 500-1500 mcg per day.

For diabetes: Dr. Atkins used the Basic Formula, plus extra chromium, zinc, selenium, inositol, CoQ10, PAK, biotin, vanadyl sulfate, magnesium.

For the lowering or prevention of cholesterol elevations, Dr. Atkins used lecithin granules (aha – lecithin is contained in whole eggs!), chromium, pantetheine, niacin and other B complex factors, garlic, Vitamin C, GLA (borage, primrose, or black currant oils), EPA (fish oil), sitosterol, glucomannan, guar gum, pectin, psyllium husks, dimethyl glycine, CoQ10, phosphatidyl choline, or use the Atkins Lipid Formula plus the Essential Oils Formula.

For elevated triglycerides, the slate is similar to the list for cholesterol, except the L-Carnitine and EPA are emphasized. Also because of the correlation of triglycerides and hyperinsulinism, the nutrients helpful in diabetes will prove to be helpful here.

For hypertension (high blood pressure), Dr. Atkins used magnesium (preferably as orotate, taurate, arginate, or aspartate), L-taurine, pyridoxal 5 phosphate or pyridoxine, garlic, essential fatty acids (GLA and EPA), CoQ10, potassium, or the Atkins Formula AH-3, plus the Essential Oils Formula.

For coronary heart disease, Dr. Atkins used one of the above mentioned magnesium compounds, L-Carnitine, Vitamin E, CoQ10, serrapeptase and/or bromelain, garlic, chromium picolinate, or his Formula CV-4.

For arthritis, Dr. Atkins used shark cartilage, superoxide dismutase, calcium EATP, pantetheine, niacinaide, pyridoxine, PABA, Vitamin C, bioflavonoids, Vitamin E, SOD/catalase, copper sebacate, or Atkins Formula AA-5, plus the Essential Oils Formula.

As Dr. A stated (all emphasis below is mine):

“The roster of nutrients which have been studied favorably in these conditions should provide a glimmer of insight into how much published work there is on nutraceuticals. Consider at the same time the almost obscene profit margins consistently reported by the pharmaceutical industry and you may get a flash of recognition as to why all these bone fide medical studies supporting a competing therapy are not widely disseminated. When your doctor doesn’t tell you about them, it’s only because nobody told him about them.”

“The restriction of carbohydrate gives you an edge and, similarly, the targeted use of nutritional supplements gives you another kind of edge. Learn about them, learn how to use them, and use them properly. When you do, the Edge will surely be with you.”

Divine's Home-Made, Low-Carb Chicken Broth

Canned broth, consomme and bouillon. At one point or another, we've probably tried them at least once. The problem is finding a low-sodium version that really is low-salt (read the label; you'll be surprised to see how low it isn't).

So, although I now prefer quick 'n' easy low-carb meals, I don't bother with grocery store options for broth but make my own.

In fact, I am convinced my clear chicken stock facilitates weight loss. I enjoy it mostly in the afternoons and evenings, between meals. It’s tasty, warm, satisfying, features organically grown spring broilers (and veggies, when I can find them) and – best of all – it’s home-made!

With mostly low-carb veggies (parsnips, mushrooms, green pepper, dandelion greens, celery) and with even "higher" carb choices (tomato, green onion), this is a very nutritional, low-carb, and flavorful broth - and I control the sodium content! (Btw, the mushrooms add the "salt" flavor we might miss, without upping sodium. Mushrooms also add low-carb nutrition!)

For 8 quarts:

1 left-over spring or roasting chicken (with the skin, pre-roasted)
*2 large parsnips (top cut off)1 or 2 whole turnips (top "nubs" cut off)
1/2 bunch of green onions (end strings cut off)
1 cup fresh mushrooms
1 tomato (with skin)
1/2 - 1 whole green pepper (with seeds and "whites" inside removed)
1 bunch dandelion greens
1/2 of a celery "bunch"
Optional: ½ head cabbage
For flavoring: Mrs. Dash No-Sodium Garlic with Herbs (for seasoning) or low-sodium salt, parsley, oregano, onion and garlic powder (not salt!)

*If using an uncooked chicken, be sure to skim off the soup base as it cooks.

1. Wash vegetables. Peel parsnips and turnips (if desired, but not necessary.)(If using an uncooked chicken, and not left-overs, rinse thoroughly.)
2. Place left-over chicken carcass and vegetables in an 8 qt. crockpot, add 7.5 qts. water, put top on, set to high and cook for 4 hrs (set on low; 8 hrs.) Or use an 8 qt. sauce pan (no top) and simmer gently 3-4 hrs.
3. Strain vegetables and chicken into a large bowl (or two). When the chicken has cooled, pull white (and/or dark) meat from the bones and place in either small-serving freezer bags or freezer-safe plastic containers. (Very useful for small meals, like chicken “salad” with low-fat ranch dressing or low-fat mayonnaise.)
4. When broth is cool, pour into sealable containers (a 10 qt. Tupperware bowl with seal is great! Or use 2-3 smaller Tupperware bowls). Place bowl(s) in the coldest part of the refrigerator – you want this to stay as fresh as possible for up to 5 days.
5. For use, just reheat the desired amt. and drink as many cups as desired - every day throughout the week! (I aim for 2-4 12 oz. mugs per day.)


Since the old rule of thumb for making wonderful, home-made chicken stock is to use at least 5 veggies, I simply looked for low-carb, nutritional options, as well as those that will add flavor. I use "1/2" amts. for the green onions, pepper, and celery only because I split each half into 2 pots. (We usually roast 2 broilers to feed my entire family, and I use the left-over chicken carcasses for 2 big pots of home-made broth.)

I'm sorry I can't give a total carb count, but it seems they are negligible when compared to canned broth. This recipe is very low-sodium – much lower than bouillion or low-fat canned broth. (I’ve discovered by trial and error that I have to be careful with sodium content, otherwise I look just like an upset blowfish.)